Marking 20 years
As Watson Integrity celebrates 20 years in business, the decision to establish the company was a long time in coming for principal Ken Watson, who has notched up 33 years in the industry.
Watson Integrity is an independent company owned by Ken and his sons Marcus and Greg and Ken’s wife Tanya is Chief Executive.
The company started out as Watson Real Estate and was further branded as Watson Integrity.
Ken gained his first job as a salesperson with McKenzie Real Estate and almost immediately made his mark on the industry.
"I was earning extremely well as a salesperson so I was in a position to open my own business with my own philosophy. It was a natural progression it was just a matter of when it was going to happen," says Ken.
When the principal of the company heard a whisper that Ken was considering the possibility of opening his own business he was asked to leave immediately.
"It was crazy, I had 17 exclusive listings, today most salespeople would have anything from five to eight listings.
"I was virtually forced to open a business. I was out on the street and I had to make a decision about opening a business."
Early in his career Ken worked with Sandra Wilson who he described as a very good salesperson so ultimately they formed a partnership and Watson Wilson Real Estate was established.
"As in many partnerships in life our way of working was different, we had different philosophies so Sandra bought me out of the business."
At that point Ken’s wife Erin was unwell so they made the decision to move to Nelson where they had family. Ken continued to work as a real estate salesperson but it was after seven months they decided to return to Palmerston North.
"My wife felt that was where we were happier and both our sons were here so we decided to come back and open a real estate business. Marcus was absolutely keen to come on board. Greg had just finished at university so he came in to help us set up and never left. So we started in 1996 with just the three of us, now 20 years on there are 27 of us."
Born in Yorkshire, Ken and his family emigrated to New Zealand.
"I came from a family that had a very ethical background towards parents, school and church so at the age of 13 when we left England that was well ingrained in me and the 27 people who work here take that same ethical approach to real estate.
"Whenever we have new people starting here I always say to them that in surveys of the most trusted professions real estate salespeople are rated third from the bottom of the list, just one ahead of sex workers, so my drive from day one has been to change the perception of real estate salespeople. Many people are very nervous about
handing over what is generally their most valuable asset to a salesperson so I have never deviated from that in 33 years. And of course the word integrity comes into it and that it is in our branding for a very good reason."
Ken says it has taken him all of the 20 years that Watson Integrity has been operating to come to terms with the company it is.
"We are a family company and that makes for a wonderful ambience between our offices in Palmerston North and Feilding."
The family connection within the company arouses a lot of interest.
"I often get asked how Marcus, Greg, Tanya and I can work together. A lot of people say to me I could never work with my son but it works for us After 20 years of working together we have yet to have our first argument and that says something about our business. We have all got different personality types that work well together. We are able to sit and discuss things, there is no laying down the law."
Since establishing the business Ken’s role as principal has changed. As the business grew, Ken spent less time selling real estate and more time on the business itself.
"I have spent a lot of years sitting behind a desk, driving myself mad."
Now Ken is back out doing what he loves best and that’s talking to people about real estate.
"One of my greatest enjoyments in life is educating people on the ins and outs of selling their house. I love explaining the process and I’m in my element when I am talking to people who want some help."
Ken is part of an Effective Business Unit (EBU) with Ashleigh Key and Charles Allen.
"We all have specific roles. My role is to talk to people about what’s entailed when it comes to selling a house and giving them the very best advice. Ashleigh’s role is marketing and communications and keeping Charles and I in line. Charles has become most successful in his role which is specifically only working with buyers. It’s a very unique arrangement in many ways and it is proving to be very successful."
Over the 16 months the EBU has been opearating Ken says it has gained in strength.
"It has just become stronger and stronger. Working with the EBU is an absolutely excellent way for clients to receive the highest level of service. Of all the properties we have sold in the last 16 months we have never had one person unhappy with the outcome."
Ken, Ashleigh and Charles have produced a book entitled Here To Get You There. Contact them if you wold like a copy.
From Ken’s point of view the future looks incredibly bright.
‘‘We have a wide cross section of age groups within our company but the one I am particularly excited about is the advent of younger people joining the industry.
Ken says technology is such an important part of their profession today and younger team members embrace this very easily.
‘‘This will only get stronger as time goes on.’’
Ken says the company decided some time ago that ‘like-minded’ people were who they were looking for to join their ‘family’ and at this point this adds up to 27.
‘‘We have a great ambience in both of our offices at Watsons. We will continue to be innovative in our best practice of doing business and we will never change our strong ethical approach,’’ says Ken.
‘‘Everyone should be treated fairly and professionally where honesty and integrity is the name of the game.
‘‘The family of ‘Watson’ will still be in real estate in Manawatu for many years to come.’’
The happy team at Watson Integrity outside their offices on Broadway.
Marcus, Ken and Greg Watson circa 2004.